SCRAPPING free school meals for infants would be an insult to schools and damaging to children, the Liberal Democrat leader has said, amid reports the Government is considering dropping policy.
Tim Farron said new kitchens had been built in many schools in the past two years to allow for the provision of free schools meals for infants, a move introduced last September.
The Government is looking into whether to continue the scheme, Sky News has reported.
However celebrity chef and healthy eating campaigner Jamie Oliver told the broadcaster doing away with the policy would be “a disaster”.
Mr Farron, whose party introduced the scheme under the coalition government, said: “It’s a terrible insult to the schools who have worked very hard over the last two years, in many cases to build kitchens and to bring in school meals at all for the first time, to take away free school meals from perhaps two million children, many of them coming from very poor backgrounds.
“All the evidence suggests that children who have a school meal every day are two months further on in their studies than those that don’t.
“This is damaging to children, it’s an insult to our schools and I guess it’s a demonstration of what the Liberal Democrats did achieve when we were in power.” A Government spokesman told Sky: “We believe that every child, regardless of their background, should have the same opportunities. That is at the heart of what we are doing with school food - no child should be hindered because they are not eating a nutritious meal at lunchtime.” Free school meals for infants were a Liberal Democrat led policy during the last coalition. They were announced by former party leader Nick Clegg is 2013. The funding of the policy has attracted criticism with the Local Government Association suggesting last year that the £150m provided by the DfE to allow schools to deliver the policy would leave a shortfall of more than £25m.